BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Wisconsin found itself ahead by 10 points with just over 10 minutes remaining against the No. 2 team in the nation. They were also on the road in a hostile environment. Reality was bound to set in, and it did.
With 10:08 remaining, the Badgers began one of their woefully traditional shooting slumps where a lid seemed to encompass the top of the goal. Six minutes passed before a long rebound trickled out to Ben Brust and instead of resetting the offense and forcing time off the scoreboard, Brust fired an 18-foot jump shot, breaking the six-minute slump.
Wisconsin never looked back.
Four minutes later, they were the only unbeaten team left standing in the Big Ten. Victory didn’t come easy for Bo Ryan’s gang, though.
Zeller kept silent in second half
The Badgers had their hands full with preseason All-American Cody Zeller — at least for the first half.
Zeller had his way with Wisconsin’s forwards during the opening 20 minutes, shooting a perfect 8-for-8 from the field. His 18 points in just 17 minutes all came on buckets near the rim as foul trouble and an errant elbow to Frank Kaminsky’s eye kept the Badgers’ bigs from settling in against the Hoosiers’ seven-footer.
“We just didn’t move our feet and get into the spots and the angles that we normally do,” Ryan said of his team’s struggles to stop Zeller in the first half. “Footwork is so important in this game.”
Berggren picked up two fouls guarding Zeller in the half and Mike Bruesewitz added another. Although they began the half with just a one-point deficit, a second half attention to detail proved necessary and effective for Wisconsin.
In order to stop the Indiana center, the Badgers needed to start from the ground up.
“It was all about our feet,” Ryan explained. “We got some help to him, and they weren’t shooting it that well from the outside … we really didn’t change anything with our positioning, we just did it better.”
Zeller’s perfect first half quickly turned sour as he missed his first six shots in the second half and failed to convert a basket until a last-minute dunk when the game was very much in hand for Wisconsin.
Hulls, Oladipo held in check
While, Brust may be remembered for hitting the shot that broke the Badgers’ scoring slump, his biggest contributions came throughout the entirety of the game as the junior guard logged a team-high 35 minutes, chasing around Indiana guard Jordan Hulls.
Hulls entered the game averaging double figures for Indiana while leading the nation, shooting 52.5 percent from beyond the arc. Through Brust’s unrelenting pressure, Hulls missed his only three-pointer of the night midway through the second half and tallied just four points, far below his season average of 11.6. But Hulls was not the only Hoosier left seemingly missing in action from Assembly Hall Tuesday night.
Junior guard Victor Oladipo presented what seemed like an interesting mismatch for the Hoosiers at the outset. At 6-foot-5, Oladipo was likely too tall for Brust, but too quick to become the defensive assignment for Wisconsin’s forwards. Following his first shot — a three-pointer and the game’s first bucket — Wisconsin needed more than just a single defender to stop the lanky speedster. It was going to take a team effort.
“[Hulls and Oladipo] are two great players — you can’t really defend them one-on-one. You have to just stay down and squeeze the court on them,” sophomore point guard Traevon Jackson said. “Oladipo, he’s one of the best players I’ve ever played against, but it’s more of a collective thing.”
After his opening bucket, the collection of Badgers’ defenders held Oladipo to just 2-for-6 shooting for the remainder of the game and his lowest scoring total (10) since Indiana’s second game of the season in early November.
Bruesewitz key in closing
Although the Badgers’ defense may have been fundamental, their ability to close out a top-ranked opponent on the road came from a less-than-likely benefactor.
Bruesewitz felt all that Assembly Hall had to offer throughout the game. A first half-airball gave the Hoosier faithful all the reason they needed to rain chants toward the senior forward.
“That was one of the best environments I’ve ever played in,” Bruesewitz said, nominating himself as the latest to recognize that Indiana basketball is back. “But you just have to play loose in those type of environments and kind of go with the flow.”
A second airball sustained those chants, but the senior forward went “with the flow,” as the student section’s hostility brought a slight smile and chuckle his way.
He eventually got the last laugh as well, making four free throws in the final two minutes, helping the Badgers seal off the upset win.
The scoreboard stopped ticking, but alas, the chants continued, and unsurprisingly, so did Bruesewitz’ smile. The unexpected “closer” for the Badgers was greeted by an ESPN interview shortly after the game with anchor Sam Ponder, one of his personal favorites.
“She’s obviously easy on the eyes, but what ESPN anchor isn’t,” Bruesewitz thought after the game. “She thought it was funny when everyone was talking to me while I was trying to do an interview … She’s cool, I like her.”
For him, it was probably a pretty good nightcap.